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Subject: The King is Ahead - A Board, Deck and Dice Review rss

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Nick Welford
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My first experience of The King is Dead was interesting. An American friend (Dad of the amazing Dara) ran a three-player game on a google spreadsheet. I'll be honest, I was scared. The game actually went really well and by the end of it I knew it must be mine.

The King is Dead

The box for The King is Dead is one of these hinge open affairs that Osprey Games seem to use when ever they can. If you have the new prints of London, or Escape the Aliens in Outer Space you'll know what I mean. Open the flap and you'll find a smallish board, a load of wooden cubes and draw bag, some cards, and some of the flimsiest punch board on God's green earth. Punching the relatively few tokens out of that wafer thin monstrosity gave me nightmares.

It all seems very minimal and simple. Gameplay follows this pattern, but once you crack the surface you find a much more complex beast. You will play up to eight rounds as you battle, not for control of the UK but for loyalty from the nation that controls most of the country. The nations are the Scots, the Welsh and the Brits. These nations are represented by cubes and placed out on the board randomly (apart from three home locations) and each player takes two cubes to their reserve.

At the end of eight rounds the player with the most cubes of the nation in control of the UK wins. Although if there are four draws for control the Saxons win those territories and then the player with most complete sets of all three nations wins.

He's Getting Better...

To manipulate the nations and state of the board you have eight cards. These let you do things like add more cubes to territories, swap the resolution order and generally change the state of play. Over the eight rounds you can only play each of these cards once. Yes that's right only eight actions, if you don't count passing, for the whole game. You can place cards face down or face up when you play them, depending on how much perfect information you want in the game.

I prefer face-up as then it is a game of total perfect information. You know how many cubes are on the board, how many in the supply and how many in front of players. You know all the cards player and what options players have going forward.

A further advantage to playing a card is you get to take one cube off the board and place it in front of you. This is a really interesting choice as what you take weakens that nation's presence on the board while strengthening your relationship with them! On the flip side playing a card means you now have less options and your opponents know it. This is a game of knowing when to pass and when to gamble and watching people struggle to decide to pass is path for the course.

He's Going to Pull Through...

Of course, holding firm and passing while the other players slap their cards around means remaining resolute. This leads to the first minor complaint - this is a game that favours repeat plays. Someone who is well versed in its systems will undoubtedly beat a new player. It will only take one play to learn and understand the game though, and play is quick enough for a second game to be started straight after the first.

A more limiting complaint is that this is ultimately a three-player only game. Two and four player games do not work out well, or provide the same kind of challenge. Also as I have alluded too the components are not exactly premium, but then neither is the price.

Games are tense tug of wars as players weight up whether they should abandon the Brits in favour of the Scots or Welsh or just to stick it out. You see plays that give factions strength in one region often weaken them else where, and if you do not plan ahead your plans may fail.

The King's Ahead

I'm absolutely entranced with the game and highly recommend it. The three-player limitation doesn't bother me that much because my game nights often end up at three players! Yes I wish the components were better particularly the punchboard, but it doesn't detract too much from a brilliant experience.

The King is Dead plays reasonably quickly and while there is some random set up, the difference each game comes from the players and reading the board. I've found myself watching their moves intently to try and read their plans and adjust accordingly.

The Good

Engaging and interesting gameplay.
Passing is a viable and necessary option.
Card powers are easy to understand.
Once the game is set up it is a 'perfect information' game.

The Bad

Three players may be limiting for some.
Components.
Newcomers will struggle in their first game against experienced players.

Article originally appeared at - https://www.board-game.co.uk/the-king-is-dead-review/

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J C Lawrence
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NeddyF wrote:
A more limiting complaint is that this is ultimately a three-player only game.


Conversely I consider this (and King of Siam) effectively 4-player games only. Oh, the 2- and 3- player games are good too, but the 4-player game is so very much better given the required coordination between partners who can't talk to each other.
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David B
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clearclaw wrote:
NeddyF wrote:
A more limiting complaint is that this is ultimately a three-player only game.


Conversely I consider this (and King of Siam) effectively 4-player games only. Oh, the 2- and 3- player games are good too, but the 4-player game is so very much better given the required coordination between partners who can't talk to each other.


Yes. The 4 player game is quite good. I don’t understand why so many gamers are averse to partnership play. The partnership play is a very interesting dynamic in this game.

Also, I will never complain that a game rewards repeat play and hence an experienced player has an advantage over a new player. What’s the point if you have a 50/50 shot against a veteran on your first play. That would tell me there isn’t much to explore in that game.
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Nick Welford
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pfctsqr wrote:
clearclaw wrote:
NeddyF wrote:
A more limiting complaint is that this is ultimately a three-player only game.


Conversely I consider this (and King of Siam) effectively 4-player games only. Oh, the 2- and 3- player games are good too, but the 4-player game is so very much better given the required coordination between partners who can't talk to each other.


Yes. The 4 player game is quite good. I don’t understand why so many gamers are averse to partnership play. The partnership play is a very interesting dynamic in this game.

Also, I will never complain that a game rewards repeat play and hence an experienced player has an advantage over a new player. What’s the point if you have a 50/50 shot against a veteran on your first play. That would tell me there isn’t much to explore in that game.


Good points. I went with my own feelings and what I thought would be the majorities thoughts. However I'm now wondering if I need to reconsider what I do with 'The Bad' section. I'm constrained to the format of the website but I think these replies have made me think. I tried to phrase them as 'this might be bad for you'. Particularly with the repeat play thing. I don't see this as a negative, more a 'don't let a difficult first game put you off.'

Thanks guys. I'll try to be more clear within this format in the future.
 
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